Before now, I don’t think my story was ready to be told.
So while I’ve thought many times over the past eighteen months about sharing with you the beginnings of my bookshop and blog, it’s never been the right time.
Like a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing, this story was incomplete.
And while I know that our stories will never truly be complete, that they’ll always be changing, evolving… I feel right now like I’ve found those puzzle pieces and that the story I want to share with you finally makes sense.
So today, as Brigitte Lyons wraps up her inspiring blog-story-hop, I want to share my story too.
It’s a story that, whenever I’ve imagined the telling of it, always come back to this one starting point: Our House
More specifically, importantly, my experience of having built our house: the dreaming, the planning, the hope…
Display homes & Dreams
In late 2003, my husband and I decided to make a ‘tree change’ and move our young family (our three beautiful kids were 5, 3 and 1 at the time) from Melbourne to a small country town in Victoria.
We bought our 5 acres of land, and for the next year I poured my time and energy (hubby was working long hours down in Melbourne at the time) into building a beautiful home.
The bricks, the roof colour, the windows… I can’t tell you how many new estates and houses I drove by, as I made decisions about what I loved (and didn’t).
Tiles, paint colours, carpets… (what on earth was I thinking when I chose the two carpets we’re currently living with?!?)
When I wasn’t doing drive-by’s in tree-lined streets, or browsing in tile shops, my weekends were spent – with the kids in tow – visiting display home after display home.
I loved to look at curtains. And kitchens.
I was grateful during every display home visit that we’d chosen to change our plan to make the kids’ bedrooms larger than the standard size. (Unfortunately we hadn’t done the same with the laundry. Or the kitchen!)
In our rental home, life was manageable.
The garage was filled, wall to wall, with boxes of our belongings. All of those things that we didn’t really ‘need’ until we were in our new home. (All of those things that we hadn’t had time to sort through before our December move from the city).
Although I had 3 kids under five, and was spending hours each week on the house, we didn’t have a lot of ‘stuff’, and everything – including the whole building process – seemed to run incredibly smoothly.
At the end of the year in 2004, just a few weeks before Christmas, we moved into our beautiful new house, with it’s blue roof and the gorgeous colonial windows that I loved so much.
I would’ve loved to have a picture rail and ‘country’-style doors. But those small wants were sacrificed along the way – for the sake of affordability and not complicating the building process.
The curtains or the car? (The point where the money ran out)
I think almost everyone runs out of money when they’re building a house.
Fortunately for us, that didn’t happen until right at the end, after we had our keys and had moved in.
But when, within a few weeks of our move, our family car died, all of our remaining ‘house fund’ (along with a good-sized loan) was needed to buy a new family car.
While I’d never had any intention of spending thousands of dollars on curtains, I’d been so looking forward to buying fabrics I loved and having a go at making at least some of our curtains and blinds myself.
Unfortunately, our new car made even the fabric for those curtains of my display home dreams suddenly unaffordable.
The money had run out. The house fund (now the ‘curtain fund’) was gone.
If the money running out was our only problem, 2005 may have been a very different year for me.
But it wasn’t.
On the day we moved into our beautiful new house, the result of a year of ‘labour’ (my creative ‘baby’!), every hand-me-down piece of furniture that we owned, and every box of stuff that had been stored in our garage for the entire year, came with us.
Within hours my ‘display home dreams’ were replaced with a very different reality, one that I hadn’t even considered in all of that time that our house was being built:
With our old, worn furniture in place, and boxes of (unnecessary) stuff everywhere we turned, our beautiful new home looked nothing like the display homes I’d spent the year visiting.
It was nothing at all like I’d imagined.
The number of boxes lining (and quickly marking) the walls was overwhelming, to say the least. But what’s worse is that within days our beautiful children had opened every box containing broken toys, incomplete jigsaw puzzles and other bits & pieces that should have found their way to the tip long before. And spread them from one end of the house to the other.
On top of that, we quickly discovered that the laminate flooring throughout our living areas was faulty and would need to be replaced. (Which ended up involving almost a year-long battle with the flooring company, many letters back and forth, visits from insurance assessors, flooring reps and carpenters, and a whole lot more moving of furniture and belongings!)
After a year of living a life that was manageable – and filled with the hope of new beginnings – here we were in a house filled with ‘stuff’, that didn’t live up to any of my dreams and imaginings!
Looking back now, I suspect that during that first year here I could quite easily have been diagnosed with depression. I certainly had many of the symptoms, and spent much of that year feeling sad and unable to motivate myself.
And in a similar way to a mother with Post-Natal Depression’s feeling of not ‘bonding’ with her baby, I feel like, because of my own depression, I never really ‘bonded’ with my new home. That maybe there’s an important step of ‘new-home-ownership’ that I somehow missed.
I struggled to keep up with the housework. Although, to be honest, it’s never been my strong point and I still do!! But during that year I really, really struggled to keep the house in order.
Boxes remained unopened.
And walls remained bare. For years. No photos, no paintings… (Until, on my birthday, our neighbours bought me a beautiful wall piece – and came down the street with a hammer and nails to put it up for me!)
This wasn’t the home I’d dreamed of. And I had no idea how to make it into that.
It was somewhere around the end of that first year here that I discovered Flylady while doing a google search (probably something along the lines of ‘struggling with housework’ or ‘can’t get my house clean’!)
Flylady’s website is devoted to helping women who are not ‘Born Organized’ to get
their our houses under control, “15 minutes at a time”.
Her many emails and wise advice were just what I needed then. With Flylady’s help, I was able to create routines that really helped me to feel that I was in control of the house and no longer buried under all that needed to be done.
And so, I started to see that much-needed ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, from the fairly dark place that I’d found myself in.
As I started to feel that the house was becoming manageable, I had more time available for me, and began to dream of what else I might be able to do.
The beginnings of The Not So Shabby Bookshelf
My passion for books and learning resurfaced, and I’d return home from the local library with piles of the self-help and motivational books that I’d rediscovered after many years of reading only chick-lit.
And I discovered blogs.
My favourite blog for a long time was Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits, a blog that not only shared great productivity tips, but shared a lot of Leo’s story about how he was making the transition from his freelance writing J.O.B. to fulltime blogger.
Along with Flylady, I credit Leo and Zen Habits with helping to light the spark in me to follow my own dreams and do something more. And for helping me to believe that it was even possible.
It was then, in 2005, that I began to dream of creating an online bookshop for women.
The idea was mostly inspired by the realization of how hard it was at the time to find Flylady’s book, Sink Reflections, online in Australia. It’s not nearly so difficult these days, of course. But like all good dreams (and a lot like poetry too!), I took that small inspiration and grew it into a far bigger idea.
For five years, I filled pages of notebooks with my business dreams and vision, with lists of the books I wanted to sell, and notes on the things I needed to learn or do to make it all happen.
During those years, I helped my husband to build his book publishing business, handling the accounts, the orders, banking… I’ve even designed one or two book covers, which has definitely been the fun part!
And finally, in 2010, after years of waiting for the time to be right, I bought the domain name and started to buy stock for The Not So Shabby Bookshelf.
In August that year, I worked madly to get my website functioning before heading off to a Ladies Night In at my kids’ school to sell my books for the very first time.
The books were well-received, particularly the craft and cooking books and gift books for children. It was so exciting to see the ladies’ reactions to the beautiful books I had displayed!
The Inspired Notebook
When I started my blog, The Inspired Notebook, in January 2011, I thought it would be a ‘practice’ blog – somewhere for me to learn the art of blogging before doing it for real for The Not So Shabby Bookshelf.
I joined the A-List Blogging Club just before New Year’s, and spent nights during our beach holiday reading the content and member forums there, preparing to write my first post as soon as we returned home.
Originally, I intended to blog about writing, but that didn’t last for long!
It’s one of the things I love about business dreams though: They’re constantly evolving.
What you ‘planned’ to do is almost never what you end up doing. And as uncertain as that sounds, I actually think it’s one of the things I love the most about pursuing my business dreams.
And so my blog has slowly evolved over the past year and a half. I’ve written about my daily ‘Morning Pages‘ habit and my love for Green Smoothies (two discoveries I’ve made along the way that are also a big part of my story). I’ve shared my love for Meatloaf’s music, and my list of things that make me smile. And I’ve shared quite a few of the books I love.
I just hadn’t shared my story before now!
Now here I am, almost two years after setting up my bookshop website, and 18 months after starting my blog, and the biggest piece of the ‘puzzle’ seems to be falling into place for me.
For a long time, I thought that I needed to have our home life ‘under control’ before pursuing my business dreams.
I thought that I needed to focus on ‘getting organized’. And to be motivated – in a delayed gratification kind of way – by the reward I’d get once that was done: a green light to finally forge ahead with what I’d been dreaming for so long of doing.
Until after a while I realized that it’s only the pursuit of my dreams that will energize and inspire me to do those other things. The housework, hubby’s business paperwork…
And that if I didn’t make time for those things I love and am passionate about, my spark would go out. And I’d quickly find myself depressed again.
I don’t find it easy to find time, for my bookshop, my blog, or my dreams.
I may be good at the accounts work I’m doing for my husband’s business, but administratively, I’m kind of a nightmare! And so I’ve created a mess of paper piles and procrastination that I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever escape from.
(If there’s a Paper Pile Flylady, I definitely want to know about her!!!)
I struggle each day with the reality that there just aren’t as many hours in the day or the week as I need to get it all done. A struggle that I’m sure is every woman’s struggle.
All of my amazing biz ideas seem to be still in my head, or in the many pages of notebooks that I fill while my kids are swimming, or while I’m waiting for appointments.
But failure? Quitting on my dream? That’s not an option. Ever!
I hold on firmly to these dreams that are so important to me, knowing that they are important.
And that if I persist, I’ll find more time to do what I love.
And that if I take small steps each day, each week, one day I’ll look back in amazement at how far I’ve come. No matter how slowly!
The piece of the puzzle that I’ve been looking for
It seems I’ve always been looking at the different areas of my life and seeing them as separate to each other: my blog & business dreams, our home life and the work I do for hubby’s business.
But I’m realizing that this is all part of the same journey for me. (Although I’m not quite sure where the work I do for hubby fits in – or if it doesn’t and just needs to be delegated to someone else, which is most likely!!)
Many of the beautiful books that I have on the shelves of The Not So Shabby Bookshelf, and on my own bookshelves, are filled with projects that will add beauty, creativity and warmth not just to someone else’s home, but to our home.
Many of the blogs and websites that I love and want to share here on my blog are filled too with so much inspiration for creating a beautiful, welcoming home.
I thought that I had to make a choice between spending time working on my home OR on my business and blog, that in pursuing my business dreams the house would suffer even further from neglect than it has already.
I don’t need to do that.
It’s time for me to start creating beautiful things for our home – and not just as gifts for family and friends, which have been the only craft projects we’ve done for years!
I started with Fabric Hoops in January, and great intentions of sharing my Subway Art with you in March… but I didn’t have a clear vision of the direction that my blog was heading in, and so I struggled to gain momentum with my creativity challenge idea.
But finally that puzzle piece is no longer missing.
I can create the home I’ve dreamed of, while at the same time creating the business I’ve dreamed of.
Sharing my story here is only just the beginning.
My story started with a house. But it’s really about a home.
It’s about me creating my home AND sharing that here with you as I create my blog and bookshop business.
And I hope that, in some small or big way, my story can help to inspire your story, no matter whether it’s your home, your blog or business, or just those small projects that make you smile along the way that you’re busy creating and needing inspiration for!